Managers feature a lot this week, the football itself doesn’t so much. Which says a lot about our national game at the minute.
Chelsea & Roberto Di Matteo
I think even Dougal and Zebedee with all of their experiences of roundabouts would struggle with the speed of the revolving managerial door at Stamford Bridge. The sacking of Roberto Di Matteo was sadly not a huge surprise even if the timing was. With the appointment of Rafa Benitez Chelsea can now boast their 6th manager in a little over 5 seasons and with Roman Abramovich seemingly playing his own private game of Football Manager, who would be surprised with Rafa getting his marching orders sooner rather than later. To be fair RDM despite his Champions League and FA Cup successes was probably never right for the job but that does beg the question why was he backed in the summer with a new permanent contract? How much backing will Benitez get? He has a contract until the end of the season but does that mean a great deal with Abramovich pulling the strings? And just how much was the selection, or not in this case, of Fernando Torres a nail in RDM’s coffin? Time will tell but it’s a fairly safe bet this would be the last time you hear stories from Chelsea this season.
Chelsea & Mark Clattenburg
The FA this week told Mark Clattenburg that he was going to avoid charges for racial comments. In the same breath they charged John Obi-Mikel with “threatening and/or abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour”. This story just goes on and on. How much of an influence it had on Di Matteo’s sacking is uncertain but I’m guessing the Chelsea press officer has been a touch busy recently! If Mikel is found guilty of these charges it does make you question the validity of the original claim against Clattenburg. It could well have been as was originally reported, a simple misunderstanding over language but in my mind there’s a sinister and murky undertone to it all which leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth.
Last time Lazio played Tottenham they were fined for their fans making racist noises towards Tottenham’s black players. The return match was also marred by ‘alleged’ racist chanting. What UEFA do to combat this, if anything, will be interesting as another fine seems pointless. However coming on the back of a lot of recent racist allegations and counter allegations we seem to be hurtling back in time towards the 70’s and 80’s. If we’re not careful we’ll miss the point entirely and fail to deal effectively with the issue at hand. People like the Society of Black Lawyers have a place in the battle against racism but at the moment they are just muddying the waters and appear to be lacking direction.
Sadly racism isn’t the only throwback creeping back into the game, at least on mainland Europe anyway. The cowardly attack on Tottenham fans in Rome on Wednesday night was a reminder that it is not always safe to go and watch your team play. While latest reports suggest this was race related and not football related the fact that it has even happen is cause for concern. Thoughts go out to those involved and I hope for their speedy recovery. However the heavy handedness of the police is also a worry. Reports from Spurs fans in the Olympic Stadium say the local bobbies were very handy with batons on Thursday night. While UEFA cannot do anything about the attacks in the bar the night before, they do have authority and jurisdiction to deal with the police within the stadium. We awaiting their intervention with bated breath!
Man City in Europe. Or not as the case might be!
Man City failed to make it out of the group stages of the Champions League this week and that has to go down as a failure. Yes it was a tough group but with the calibre of players available to Roberto Mancini and the financial backing you would have at least expected their chances of progression to last until game 6. Depending on how their league campaign goes and who they sign in January, Mancini might be staring down the barrel of a gun come February.
Mark Hughes has already stared down the barrel of a gun and has seen it go off. Again this wasn’t a total surprise. With QPR sitting bottom of the league and still searching for their first win of the year after 14 games Hughes knew he was on borrowed time after last weekend’s home defeat to Southampton. He must have thought he escaped at least for one more week though and so again timing becomes the issue here. Why now? Don’t feel too sorry for Hughes though. He will appear elsewhere and still has the potential to do a good job. I would say a team in the championship might be his new destination but if/when the next premier league boss goes, expect his name to be in the mix.
If rumours/twitter/the media are to be believed Harry Redknapp will be installed as the new boss in time for Saturday’s trip to Old Trafford. And this might explain the timing. Long touted as Hughes’ successor Harry’s agent came out in the week to say he was interested in the Ukraine job. It seemed highly unlikely given Redknapp did not want to travel to Newcastle for a job, but now seems to have been a ploy to force QPR’s hand. And it seems to have worked. Redknapp’s time at White Hart Lane began in similar circumstances and proved to be the starting point for a good few years. If history repeats itself, Tony Fernandes’ move will appear to have been a bold and clever move. If not well there’s always Caterham F1. Oh....
Shirts, Shorts & Tradition
Football strips used to follow such simple rules once upon a time. Last week’s North London derby should have been one of those occasions. Arsenal red shirts, white shorts, red socks. Tottenham white shirts, navy shorts, white/navy socks. Sounds simple doesn’t it, the way it’s always been and certainly no need for an away shirt or alternative kit there. Yet Tottenham lined up their 3rd choice kit of silver and black halved shirts. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like that kit but the only clash was both teams home kit has white shorts. It wouldn’t have been a hardship for Tottenham to switch to their traditional navy shorts like they did at Manchester United. Sadly marketing and brand management is now having a bigger say on strips for a weekend than common sense.
I’ll also include England rugby team’s ludicrous decision to wear purple or maroon or whatever colour it’s supposed to be against Australia in this. A change kit for England is only necessary when they play Fiji and at an absolute push, Argentina. I can feel a rant coming on so I’ll leave it there.
Let’s see what next week brings!